We can all agree on the fact that marketing is a point that is worth investing in. However, as a long-term, strategic effort, it is something that is often easy to put off. In today’s digital first world, a strategy that does not encompass marketing – especially digital marketing – will stagnate a business and prevent it from reaching its full potential. Marketing has the power to increase brand recognition and get people interested in a company, as well as (if done correctly) keep them coming back. The effort required to do marketing right is what we call a bottleneck; a blocker to achieving the full growth potential. That’s why we have put together this ultimate guide to working with digital marketing agencies.
Whether you own a business yourself, or are part of one, being aware of bottlenecks that may hinder growth can help reflect on how to avoid them.
In this post, we will cover the pros and cons of hiring a digital marketing agency, and how you can avoid bottlenecks. In the following pages you will come to understand how to identify common bottlenecks a company faces and how they can be solved by the help of outside support.
Table of Contents
- Pros and Cons of Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency
- Better Use of Time
- Lack of Industry Knowledge
- Time Required to Familiarize with an Agency
- Common Signs That You Need Help from an Agency
- Stagnation of Sales
- Lack of Marketing Expertise
- Decreasing ROI
- Unclear Results
- Brand is No Longer Growing
- Criteria to Consider When Choosing an Agency
- Does the Agency Have Experience in Your Industry?
- Does the Agency’s Creative Work for Other Clients Excite You?
- Do They Have Proof of Their Expertise?
The Pros and Cons of Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency
Marketing agencies’ revenue has been increasing for most of the past decade (without the 2020 Covid Year). That attests to the fact that more and more executives are looking for marketing agencies to help promote and scale their businesses. As we don’t want to appear biased, we will address both pros and cons of working with a digital marketing agency.
Pro #1: Creativity
One of the most common challenges that a company’s marketing team faces when it comes to the development of the brand and how to scale it is that ideas and creativity tend to stagnate over time. This could be due to the creative work being done entirely in the bubble of an internal marketing team where there is a lack of input from the outside world.
It’s hard to see one’s own business from an outsider’s perspective. Think about this: If a business has had a particularly successful campaign in the past, how likely is it that it will branch out and experiment with a new approach? Agencies, or ‘externals’, offer an objective viewpoint, helping see the forest from the trees and provide suggestions for improvement over time. Making what you’ve found to work, work even better.
Relying solely on an internal marketing team could sometimes mean that small flaws or less than perfect ideas are not criticized, or critique of them falls under the radar. Whether you like to believe it or not, team members have the tendency to wear “blinders” when it comes to dealing with their teammates. However, this is not optimal for growth.
An Outsider’s Perspective
While an internal team will already be very well accustomed to the company’s brand and overall strategy, an agency can provide a fresh view on things and kickstart a new, improved and clearer company identity and approach to gaining market share.
An agency must keep up with trends at another level. Technology in marketing can change rapidly. Working with an array of clients (maybe even in your industry), it’s in their blood to know what has been done, what is out of trend and what is up and coming. This could help your team unlock the next big thing in digital marketing and branding.
Experienced marketing agencies with years of experience and expertise pushing creative campaigns can enhance your internal creativity. Their resources and vision, coupled with yours, are sure to bring your online presence to the next level.
Pro #2: A Better Use of Your Time
A common misconception is that one needs to be involved in all aspects of a business. However, this is not an efficient use of time. It can be much more efficient to delegate tasks. One of the primary benefits of hiring a marketing agency is all the time you’ll save.
Marketing can become tedious. Plus, having to keep campaigns up-to-date and running means there is rarely any down time. Facets like posting engaging content on a regular basis might be fun at first, but can also become a challenge after a while.
The ability to have more time on your hands by having smaller tasks taken off of your plate by an agency can be immensely valuable and allow you to focus on the bigger picture.
While outsourcing to an agency can reap huge benefits, there are also instances where it becomes disadvantageous. Some of the cons are listed below.
Con #1 – Lack of Knowledge in Your Specific Industry
While there are agencies that work with companies in a specific industry, most of them work with clients across various industries. That means that it will take some time for them to understand your products or services on a deeper level. It’s also possible that a company hasn’t worked in your field at all before.
Agencies that have worked with clients across a multitude of industries know what’s needed to put themselves in the shoes of their clients. As such, they take the time to understand both a client’s needs and those of their customers. Since each market is different, what works well for one client may not work in another industry, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot to learn.
To counteract a lack of industry knowledge, you can hire a firm with proven results in your field. The different types of agencies will be addressed at a later stage in this article.
Con #2 – Getting to Know Each Other
An agency that has worked with plenty of clients in the past and is reputable will take the time to familiarize itself with a new client and the industry they are in. However, this process can require some time. When first starting a collaboration with a marketing agency, you won’t be able to hand responsibilities over immediately.
Getting to know the tone of voice and the overall brand image of the company can be essential to fulfilling its needs. Therefore, especially in the beginning, frequent meetings are of paramount importance in order to align on the long term vision of both parties.
As mentioned previously, an agency focuses solely on your marketing strategy, or the parts that you keep putting off, allowing you to continue to push forward your product or service.
Whether you are just starting out or have already established yourself on the market, considering outside help from a digital agency can make sense. While you may need to be on your own in the beginning out of necessity or due to budget restraints, incorporating an agency to assist with marketing can ultimately allow a business to scale more sustainably.
Having now addressed some pros and cons of hiring a digital agency, now it is time to consider some key issues that businesses might encounter that highlight WHEN the time is right to consult the help of a digital agency.
Common Signs That You Need Help from an Agency
Sign #1 – Stagnation of Sales
Marketing and sales are supposed to be a coherent unit. If this is not the case, it will reflect on sales’ success. Let’s say a product or service’s pricing is reflective of the value it provides to clients and they are also content with paying this price.
What could be the problem that is hindering this business from scaling to new levels? Chances are that it is not able to reach the right audiences needed – aka marketing is falling short.
This could mean that a brand is not present or top-of-mind enough for it to be recognized. What needs to happen in order for a brand to become top-of-mind?
It needs to be present in customer acquisition channels where their audience is frequently present, so that they get to view their product or service. These can be done via marketing on channels such as organic search, paid search, email marketing, as well as a presence on social media. Generally, digital agencies offer free consultations in order to gain insight into what the issue might be and how their services can be of help in order to aid your business scale and grow further.
Another reason for sales to stagnate can be that a current in-house team is overworked and simply lacks capacity to experiment and try out different marketing strategies and channels. The more tasks they take on, the thinner their talents get stretched. The stress can also manifest itself in a half-hearted approach to decision-making and underwhelming performance. This can be the case in lead generation as well as lack of creativity in content marketing.
Digital marketing agencies will help a company maintain an effective relationship between sales and marketing. Ultimately, the goal of a marketing agency is to increase revenue by improving brand recognition and increasing traffic on a company’s website, blog and social media pages.
Sign #2 – Lack of Marketing Expertise
There’s a lot that goes into building and running a successful business, and it’s understandable that urgent tasks that have an immediate impact will take precedence over others.
But since marketing requires time and energy as well, it is not something that can be put on the back burner when time becomes more scarce. It is something that requires constant attention. However, if you do everything yourself, chances are you cannot be an expert at everything and will let some things slack off.
Marketing has many different facets and things that need to be considered. This makes an agency can act as a third arm to your business. The types of agencies usually come in three forms:
Full Service Agencies
Full Service Marketing Agencies will serve a role similar to the one of a Head of Marketing. While an agency like this will require more of a budget, they are also very beneficial. They will take over all of your digital marketing activities (and offline activities as well if need be). Hiring such an agency will allow you to put your marketing on autopilot. The agency will take over the reins in all aspects, ranging from SEO, paid advertising, social media and content marketing to digital branding, digital transformation and web development.
A specialized agency will offer a few distinct services where they have superior expertise in. Specialized agencies will often provide higher-quality services than full-service agencies. However they will only focus on one facet of your marketing efforts. They will often have dedicated subject matter experts that focus on each stage of the process.
A consultancy will offer guidance to their clients in order for them to make an informed, calculated business decision. Consultancies have their expertise in the strategic plan of a business. A digital marketing agency, on the contrary, will get their hands dirty in specific projects where a brief is created to be executed.
Both a full service and specialized agency will have insights into specific industries that a company is looking to target. This spread out expertise combined with in depth knowledge of trends in desired industries makes the decision to work with an agency more tempting.
An agency will instantaneously conduct research on your target audience in order to understand their interests and behavior. Hiring a marketing agency means you get to take advantage of their understanding of the latest relevant market trends and practices, instead of having to familiarize yourself with it every time.
Sign #3 – Decreasing ROI
The goal of most businesses is to make money and be profitable. However, sometimes businesses need to cut back on spending in order to achieve profitability. An area where expenditure is often capped is marketing.
One needs to be savvy when it comes to marketing. Marketing Managers need to know which advertisements are working and which ones are not. They can then eliminate or optimize the ads accordingly.
When you conduct marketing campaigns in a robotic, generic manner, you will get low returns on your investment. Use your ads as an opportunity to educate your customers about your products and services and how they’ll benefit. Connecting with them according to their stage in the buyer’s journey or sales funnel. It also helps to address your digital marketing efforts in a strategic manner.
The Costs before the Fun Part
If you look at marketing more holistically, it’s clear that costs already arise before the actual strategy starts.
Even when acquiring the resources leading up to the actual marketing activities, there are factors to take into consideration. Hesitations aside, does it make more sense financially to keep marketing in-house or outsource to an agency?
Well, you’re in for a surprise. A digital agency not only saves time, it also saves money. Think of it like this: If you were to hire an in-house marketer, you would first need to undergo the hiring process. This means selecting a few qualified candidates out of a pool of pretenders. Then they would need to receive training and an approximately 3 month long ramp up phase. The costs will accumulate to be a lot higher than simply hiring a marketing agency. This is a major investment without a proven track record that a reputable marketing agency has.
A marketing agency will be able to start after a short consultation. It also does not require healthcare or benefits, vacation days, nor any training. With an agency, you simply need to share your goals and their timeframe. Combine this with a marketing agency’s access to paid tools as well as its expertise and a business will save out in the long run.
Good marketing requires a solid understanding and strategy. In order to achieve results and grow steadily, it also requires a budget most of the time.
Another often underestimated point when it comes to outsourcing to a digital agency is its ease of scalability. In a regular setting, having an in-house team means that you’ll need to increase the size of your team whenever your business needs to grow, or you want to launch something new. This means that a business will need additional resources to support and fuel the growth. However, the flexibility of a marketing agency allows for a company to forego this expansion, as there will be no constraints or growing pains on your team.
Sign #4 – Unclear Results
The huge upside of digital marketing compared to traditional marketing is that it allows you to gather data (if the visitor gives consent of course) on visitors which you can in turn use to draw conclusions on the effectiveness of your marketing and overall interactions.
No business wants to make investments that bring no results. If your marketing efforts are hit and miss and the results are not properly tracked, costs can get out of control quickly. Without analytics, you’re setting yourself up for a marketing failure.
Having access to the right data can boost ROI and amplify marketing efforts. Data allows marketers to measure success in terms of the response of real people through individual campaigns over time.
Additionally, accurate contact data gives marketers the tools and insights they need to hyper-segment marketing campaigns. They can then better target their audience for higher conversion rates. 86% of consumers report that receiving personalized messaging plays a role in their purchase decisions. Personalization is not something marketers can ignore. In order to effectively send personalized content, a business needs to know its audience’s likes and preferences inside out. This is where the use of data comes in again.
Up to 33% of marketers say that they simply lack the resources to successfully conduct personalized marketing. When this is encountered, it might be beneficial to consider outsourcing some parts of marketing. With the help of a knowledgeable digital marketing agency, you can get insights into your audience. You can then segment it into chunks that can be marketed to with respective personalized and relevant content.
Analyzing strengths and weaknesses as a company is critical in goal achievement. If you can’t figure out what inbound marketing initiative is driving leads for your business or why you are not getting your goal ROI for your social media marketing campaigns, you need an agency to provide the answers for you. This saves you from spending a considerable amount of time and resources in activities that are simply not cost-effective. An agency would be able to help you identify effective marketing campaigns and scale them whereas ineffective ones would be killed off.
Sign #5 – The Brand is No Longer Growing
Having a brand in place can keep customers engaged with a business. It can make them content with paying a premium if the business has a strong brand.
However, oftentimes businesses struggle getting even the most rudimentary branding steps correct.
Think of the terms “brand” and “logo”. These are often used interchangeably. But even though a logo can be the symbol of a business, it is not the entirety of a brand. This is an aspect that is neglected regularly.
What is a brand really? Is there a value that you provide that makes your target audience seek you out? What makes you stand out? Often, these questions are things that haven’t been considered in years… if at all. Not being able to answer these does not mean that a business owner is doing a bad job or that the business is subpar. It means that there has simply not been time allocated to answering these foundational questions. Be this due to time restraints or not being aware of the importance of posing these questions.
The help of an agency can be beneficial in order to establish a solid brand understanding and foundation to build upon.
These questions are critical when building a brand. Having the help of an agency in answering these questions can go a long way in establishing a strong and consistent brand identity.
For a brand to be convincing and trustworthy, it needs to be consistent. Your messaging should be recognizable and aligned in order to be associated with your brand. Consistency is crucial in developing trust amongst your customers. An example of having a consistent approach to your marketing efforts and thus increasing your digital brand would be posting content or sending newsletter to customers in regular time intervals. The customer then knows that you know what you do.
Working with an agency allows a business to have access to design professionals. These can establish the appearance of your website, marketing materials, logos and more.
Content marketing ties in closely with the development of your brand as well. Content professionals at your agency will help you to establish the tone of voice your brand should use. You can do this by optimizing the copy on all your pages. You can also optimize your presence on social media to ideally cater valuable content to your audience.
Criteria to Go By When Selecting an Agency
If a business is considering outsourcing its marketing activities to an agency, it needs to consider some things prior to hiring one. It might make sense to assign agencies scores of 1-10 for each category of criteria. Then a predetermined minimum threshold to make a shortlist or sign a contract can be created. So let’s get into these criteria.
Does the Agency Have Experience in Your Industry or Niche?
As addressed in the “Lack of Expert Knowledge” chapter of this article, there are several types of agencies. Some have knowledge in multiple areas of marketing. Some are experts in just one. Others have experience in only one industry whereas larger ones might be masters of them all.
If an agency has prior experience in your niche or industry, there will be immediate synergy. You will not need to educate the agency about the do’s and don’ts of the industry. They will also be aware of what prospects are looking for. Furthermore, they might already understand what can set a business apart from its competitors.
Another interesting aspect of hiring an agency that has knowledge in your specific industry is that they might already have built key connections in the media. This can make it significantly easier to get recognition via shoutouts or features.
Does the Agency’s Creative Work for Other Clients Excite You?
Take a look at the agency’s client portfolio and determine for yourself if the content or ads they produced for them appeases you. Knowledge and expertise are one thing, but we as people are visual creatures. If an agency’s marketing does not light a fire for you, it will be tough trusting them to take over your business’ marketing.
Do They Have Proof of Their Expertise?
This means asking the agency to go into detail when it comes to showcasing their previous work done for other clients. Testimonials are great but you can bury all doubt by taking a look at case studies with before and after effects of the agency’s work. Also ask into insights into analytics the agency will intend to use to measure the success for your company’s campaigns.
To Round Up
One fact is that digital marketing has the power to grow your business faster than you would do yourself. You do not need to hire and train people yourself, but instead work with experienced professionals. These experts know the ins-and-outs of the digital marketing world.
After careful consideration and assessment of a business’ own needs and wants, hiring a digital marketing agency allows it to get started with campaigns almost immediately.
A reputable, experienced agency will be able to quantify what is and is not working in your marketing setup. You can then eliminate the ineffective aspects and help your business achieve a higher ROI.
It’s possible to see your campaigns live within weeks after creating a strategy.
Start by first understanding your needs and sharing them with the agency. Digital campaigns work best if all parties are on the same page. Plus, your agency should enjoy the freedom of making decisions that best suit your interests and budget plan. If you are facing one or multiple of these tell-tale signs, contact our dedicated experts at Ogno to get a free consultation. We will familiarize ourselves with your business and its particular needs.